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CHAMPAIGN — Bret Bielema's first Illinois football team will be able to play in front of its home fans this upcoming season.

The program announced Friday morning that Memorial Stadium will operate at 100 percent capacity for the 2021 campaign, beginning with the Aug. 28 noon opener against Nebraska.

"We are excited to be the first college football kickoff at 100 percent capacity in nearly 20 months," Bielema said in a statement. "The combination of being the first college football game of the season and being at full capacity will allow our fans to show the country that Memorial Stadium is an electric environment. I know our players can't wait to see Grange Grove lined with the Illini famILLy during our team's walk into the stadium and hear more than 60,000 fans going crazy in Memorial Stadium against Nebraska."

This news comes on the same day Illinois moves into Phase 5 of the Illinois Department of Public Health's COVID-19 safety plan, which puts no restrictions on gathering limits.

Only team family members were permitted to attend home games during the condensed 2020 season, as the country attempted to get a handle on the pandemic.

This change also applies to other Illini venues, as team Twitter accounts for men's basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball posted messages about their facilities being at 100 percent capacity for the upcoming school year.

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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